Fresh from the Garden: How to Enjoy Green Beans

— By Kate Yerxa, Extension Educator, University of Maine Cooperative Extension

Green and yellow snap beans are a common garden crop in Maine. While bush and pole beans are easy to grow for new home gardeners, it can be overwhelming if your crop is ready to pick at the same time. Pick your beans when they are straight and slender, and they should snap easily when you bend them. If you see the seeds (beans) bulging in the pods, they are overripe ripe. Kate Garland, Horticulturist with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, shares some tips below to have a more manageable snap bean harvest this season and how to get several harvests of green beans this year:

  • Try planting small batches of beans every two or three weeks to avoid having too many beans ripening at the same time.
  • To make the most of your crop, be ready to pick every day or so when they begin to ripen – it’s easy to waste beans if you don’t get out to harvest them on a regular basis.
  • To keep your garden as productive as possible, pull the plants when they start to slow down in production and plant a short-season crop like radishes, lettuce, or other greens in its place.

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Beans are best when used right after harvest but can be kept in the refrigerator for three to five days before use. If you are interested in freezing or canning green or yellow beans from your garden, review the University of Maine Cooperative Extension’s Let’s Preserve Snap Beans publication for more information.

If you are not going to freeze or can the beans you harvest, there are several ways you can prepare them. Before cooking fresh snap beans, rinse beans thoroughly in clean, cool water to remove dirt and debris. Snap beans can be cooked whole, cut into bite-sized pieces, sliced lengthwise (French style), or cut diagonally. To cook snap beans, try the following ways:

  • Boiling, steaming, or microwaving are all good options for cooking snap beans. Boiling takes about 10 minutes, steaming takes 3 to 5 minutes, and microwaving takes 5 to 8 minutes.
  • Stir-frying or sauteing beans with a small amount of oil or broth is a tasty way to cook them. This method also helps preserve nutrients and takes about 2 to 5 minutes.
  • Toss your beans with a drizzle of oil or cooking spray, add some seasoning or salt and pepper, and roast in the oven for 10-15 minutes. This gives the beans a crispy texture and sweet flavor.

A few of my favorite snap bean recipes include Green Bean Salad which is a nice twist on the typical potato salad. It is great to bring to summer cook-outs to show off your snap bean and new potato harvest. Another great side dish is Green Beans with Garlic. You can make this with fresh beans or frozen beans so it is a great year-round recipe.